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Focus, Focus, Focus

When it comes to writing, it takes a lot of focus. There is no way around it. The writers who write book after book after book have some the most enviable focus I have ever seen. And at times I need to renew my own focus and determination to not let the distractions in this business (and yes there are many) and the freedom of working at home (which affords its own diversions) from cutting too deeply into the time necessary to write a book.

Earlier this year I put together a writing workshop in motivation–not character motivation, but motivating the writer to chain her butt to the chair and pursue her dream career. Oh, how easy it is to lecture on a subject I struggle with constantly.

Until I did one simple exercise that truly opened my eyes.

I always hear the same complaint from writers who have to balance an outside job, family, home life, commitments, life–I don’t have the time. I have those commitments as well, I will say. I’ll talk about the time my son with autism takes away from my daily writing, the commitments of being both a stay at home mom and a full time writer. The looming hell that can be deadlines. You have the time, I always extoll these writers. “You can carve it out.”

And quite frankly we all can. Even me.

The light bulb moment came last January as I was both searching for a way to show people how they could write a book–easily–every year. Perhaps even more than one. I’d been taking part of 1K sprints on Twitter and at the retreat I went on with my writer pals. 1K in 1hour they are called. You write, focused and not stopping for one hour–with the goal to get one thousand words into your manuscript. Turn off the editor and just write.

For me this works because I am a plotter. I have my scenes mapped out and I “draft” them by hand before I ever approach the computer. I like to think about the scene and let it mull around a bit before I dive in. So as I would approach a sprint, out came my notes and away I went. But this method also works for Pantsers–people who like to sit down and let the story unfold before them. Either way, you sit down and write for one hour and push yourself to get one thousand words done, which works out to be about four pages.

Now do the math. 1K in 1hour. Five days a week. Over the course of the year. Give yourself some time off for vacations, holidays and sick leave, and do you know how many words you would have written?


A little over three full length 90K books.

Holy Crap! It truly was a light bulb moment. And one that has changed my entire outlook. Instead of eating the entire elephant in a month and ending up with a large pile of poo, considering the measured, deliberate, fully thought out approach. A little focus and 1K in 1hour, five days a week.

Thoughts? Comments?

6 comments to “Focus, Focus, Focus”

  1. Cynthia
    May 13th, 2012 at 11:08 am · Link

    Do your calculations above include time to write the outline? How long does it take you to write an outline? Does it also include time for revisions and rewriting?

    I am very interested to learn more about your approach.

    Happy Mother’s Day!

    • Elizabeth
      May 14th, 2012 at 6:46 am · Link

      I haven’t included prewriting time–the planning and the outlining, only because I am shocked to discover how many people do NO planning. Personally for me that would be like taking a vacation by pointing the car and driving.

      • Cynthia
        May 14th, 2012 at 10:11 am · Link

        I started writing a book without planning (I was sick and was inspired to write while laid up in bed) and had written about 20,000 words when I got stuck. I wound up rewriting parts several times but it was really hard to make big changes. I wound up not going any further and signed up for a fiction writing class where we are going through the steps of structuring a book. The class has been great and I believe my story will be stronger as a result of the planning process.

  2. Murali Krishna Nalluri
    May 14th, 2012 at 12:56 am · Link

    I don’t want to write the comments as much but the comments are there for me to come.

  3. Linda Mc
    May 14th, 2012 at 8:39 am · Link

    Wow. I’ve tried the 1K, 1 hr thing before, but then my motivation gave out and that was the end of it. But, I had not done the math….I had no idea that amounted to 290,000 words…even with taking a little time off and writing 5 out of the 7 days. That is a huge lightbulb. I’m just starting to plot out a mystery. I’m a plotter too, so I’m working on my outline now and then will hit the 1K, 1 hr plan. Thank you!!!

  4. Michele Stegman
    June 4th, 2012 at 8:11 pm · Link

    I’m going to try this. Will let you know if it works for me.
    Thanks for the idea!

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